Bianca Tuckwell



A project about land and its devoted farmer, Elliot Tuckwell.

Since the production of this project, Elliot has passed and the farm is still owned by our family. 

Here is the story. 

Elliot Tuckwell bought ‘Cleva’ in 1976.  It is a property in Tuckombil, located comfortably on a hill in Northern Rivers, NewSouth Wales, Australia.  Before the region started to rely more heavily on tourism, the area produced (and continues to produce) seafood, beef, dairy, fruit, sugar cane and timber.  Closer to Tuckombil and ‘Cleva’, main production and farming included stone fruit and nuts, mainly macadamias.  This is predominantly due to the area having a more sub tropical climate being close the Queensland border, where average temperatures are significantly higher during the four seasons. The tale of the purchase of ‘Cleva’ is one that would prick the ears of fatalists and destiny believers alike.   At the time, the Tuckwells were living in Lismore and Elliot had just resigned from the Department of Forestry in Papa New Guinea.His old friend from previous days in Papa New Guinea, Alan Hartley, had spoken to Elliot about this magnificent land found in Northern Rivers that he planned to buy for himself and his sons.  Just ten minutes from the local town of Alstonville and 20 minutes to the closest beach with soil perfect for a multitude of fruits and plants, Elliot later received a phone call from Alan saying that he’d found another plot closer to a local town Lismore and that Elliot should indeed buy the property for himself and his family.The size of this virgin land was 17 hectares, land locked by 4 neighbouring properties and in its natural state with no house, sheds or plantations.Upon purchase completion, Elliot built a family home on the part of the land that overlooked neighbouring area Teven and rolling hills that reached the ocean.  He set up his capital resources of 2 sheds, a water tank, a tractor, a trailer and packing machinery for the fruit. Elliot’s research on the most successful fruit to grow in Northern Rivers concluded that indeed the best choice was Avocados and Custard Apples and so divided the land accordingly in order to cultivate around 1000 of each.  The avocados were planted on a part of thefarm that offered the best drainage in times of heavy rainfall. Between 1976 and the late 1990’s Kiwi Fruit, Nectarines, Peaches, Tamarillos, Lycheesand Locusts were grown however not sold in same volume as the steadfast avocado and custard apple. The‘Cleva’ Nursery was used as a greenhouse to germinate Avocado and Custard Appleseeds, which were used on the farm and sold to local orchardists.  The nursery’s sideline included growing a small number of Palms and Cycads, which were also sold locally.  Many farmers in the local area certainly maintain the lions share of harvesting and production, however when it comes to packing fruit in large volumes, the job isoften sub contracted to packing companies. For the farmers of Alstonville it’s ‘Summerland House With No Steps’ (SHWNS).  This working farm (Macadamias and Avocados) offers employment and training for those with disabilities including OfficeAdministration, Avocado and Macadamia Nut Farming, Macadamia Dehusking,Tropical Fruit Packing, Agriculture, Garden Maintenance, Restaurant and Hospitality services, Retail and Tourism. Elliot occasionally uses SHWNS but prefers to keep all work on site, ready for the distribution trucks to collect and deliver interstate. ‘Cleva’is certainly no exception to Australia’s abundant flora, fauna and native animals.  The farm is an inviting stomping ground for the likes of Wallabies, Possums, Foxes, Koala’s, Cockatoo’sand Tawny Frogmouthed Owls to mention a few. Less approachable wildlife also dwell including the common and deadlyEastern Brown Snake.  The human tenantson the snake’s home ground need to keep a sharp eye out, as with its daytime behaviour,awareness in long grass is paramount.  No one has ever been bitten by a snake on the land. Other common creepy crawlies on ‘Cleva’ include the harmless Coastal Golden Orb Weaverspider with its distinctive black and yellow legs and found amongst just about every tree. The ‘Jumping Jack Ant’ and Bull-ant which give a wincingly painful stingthat follows with an itchy bite mark. Mosquito’s during the summer months and Cicadas, an insect that clingsto bark and produces it’s distinctive resonating, sometimes deafening, song. Up to present day, ‘Cleva’ is still owned by the Tuckwells and harvests Custard Apples and Avocados although the future of the land is uncertain due to Elliot’s degrading health.  It may continue to generate tropical fruits of it’s past or become land for another popular export like beef.  Council regulations state that the land cannot be sub-divided, securing its existenceas one piece of land with one owner.    


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